Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

THS coach sees hopeful signs from scrimmage


August 17, 2022

File photo

New Tucumcari head football coach Donnie Garcia talks to his players during a recent practice session. The Rattlers travel to Jal for a non-district game at 7 p.m. Thursday for their season opener.

New Tucumcari High School football coach Donnie Garcia was mostly pleased with what he saw last week during a scrimmage at Texico – a hopeful sign for his Rattlers when they go on the road to face Jal for their season opener on Thursday night.

Garcia said the first bit of good news from the scrimmage was his players suffered no injuries. The second bit was the Rattlers defense performed better than expected and didn't allow any scores.

"Our defense definitely is ahead of our offense, although we did really well (on the latter)," he said Friday, the day after the scrimmage. "I was really proud of our kids' effort on defense.

"On offense, we have some things we have to adjust and things to work on, but we definitely can see the positive side of all this."

Garcia takes over a Rattlers program that was 1-9 last season. Previous coach Wayne Ferguson stepped down after 10 seasons, though he will stay on as athletic director for one more year before his expected retirement.

When asked to elaborate about his team's sticking points on offense during the scrimmage, Garcia said most of it stems from youth and inexperience.

"We have a very young team, and going up against the kids we faced yesterday, they were nervous," he said. "They just have to get used to the speed of varsity football and the meaning of what varsity football is, then go ahead and play."

Garcia said his offense's performance wasn't totally bad, either.

"Even though we've had only eight days of practice, we were able to at least run some plays," he said. "On defense, we didn't allow any scoring. We bent, but we didn't break."

This Friday, freshman Kameron Apodaca is expected to lead the offense at quarterback. Garcia said Apodaca has shown the ability to both run and throw.

"He's learning the offense, and he was throwing pretty good passes to our kids. He's learning pretty quick," he said.

At the running back position are junior Antonio Gonzales and sophomore Jordan Rincones, both who saw varsity action last season.

Garcia didn't want to give too much away about his gameplan at Jal, but was more open about what his offense likely will look like.

"We're running primarily a spread offense," he said. "I have height, I have speed, and I have receivers who can catch. We may as well match the offense to the players."

Garcia said the linebacker corps that performed well at the scrimmage were Gonzales, Rincones, senior Xzander Garcia and freshman Daymion Urioste.

He said he used a 4-4 defense against Texico's spread offense, and "it worked out pretty well."

"We were able to make some adjustments on different receivers, and our cornerbacks and linebackers were able to make the plays they needed to."

The Jal Panthers are coming off a 10-2 season where they advanced to the Class 2A title game before falling to Eunice. The Panthers have a 6-foot-1, 195-pound quarterback in Alexavier Carreon who can run the football effectively.

Garcia expressed confidence his defense can control Jal's running game.

"I think with Xzander and Antonio in the middle, we should be able to take care of the running part as long as the other kids can cover the outside," he said. "I'm hoping that it can be a decent game where our kids are flying to the ball."

Tucumcari first home game is at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 against non-district foe Thoreau. District play begins in late September with games against Hope Christian, Dexter, New Mexico Military Institute and a new addition, Ruidoso, due to realignment.

"Our whole schedule is a tough schedule," Garcia said. "But like I told the kids, the schedule is not what I'm concerned about. The scoreboard I'm not concerned about. It's their effort and their progress. We will evaluate all that at the end of the season, and we'll see what they learned."

An encouraging sign for the Rattlers program is the number of players on the practice field swelled from 22 on the first day to 32 to 34 now, Garcia said.

"It's really positive that we can have offensive practice against a scout team on defense. It really helps," Garcia said.

"We're really excited to see the excitement in the kids' eyes when we run this stuff," he added. "I don't know if it's because it's new, but you can tell they've bought in. They're working hard, they're there at practice every day, and they're doing what they're supposed to. We want to try to change the culture and get these guys involved."


With almost everyone back from an 8-4 squad, the Longhorns figure to a contender for the District 3 regular-season title and possibly a state championship in eight-man football.

Logan's season opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Alamo Navajo near Magdalena. The Longhorns' home opener is 6 p.m. Aug. 26 against Questa.

Among those anchoring the team will be junior quarterback Brock Burns and senior linebacker, running back and kicker Park Strong, who earned an armload of all-district and all-state honors last season.

"This is a great group of young men, and they are very dedicated to the program and the goals we have set," Logan coach Dwayne Roberts said. "We will be very consistent on both sides of the ball. Everyone is accustomed to our strategy and knows their job and position."

Though Roberts' squad figures to be a strong one, their district schedule is no picnic. It includes perennial state contenders Tatum and Melrose in back-to-back weeks in mid-October. Perennial power Fort Sumner also is part of the district, though Logan doesn't face it during the regular season.

"Our entire district is a state contender, and adding Clayton will just increase the strength of the district," Roberts said. "As far as the toughest opponent, I think they are all going to be a test, and we will need to be well-prepared for every game."


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